OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Senate passed Everett’s Law, a bill that prohibits discrimination against a potential organ transplant recipient based solely on the individual’s physical or mental disability.
Senate Bill 378 was written by Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City.
Edmond parents Rhys and Neely Gay requested Everett’s Law. Their middle child, three-year-old Everett, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome shortly after he was born and has a congenital heart defect, according to a State Senate news release.
Everett underwent five surgeries and is now healthy. However, along the way, Everett’s parents learned that individuals with mental or physical challenges could be denied a life-saving transplant simply because of their disability. They then began advocating for change, and in the process, reached out to Rosino, who serves as vice chair of both the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, according to the news release.
“I was stunned to find out that simply having a diagnosis of Down Syndrome could cause a beautiful child like Everett to be turned down for a transplant,” Rosino said. “Everett’s Law would prevent this kind of discrimination. About a dozen other states have already passed similar legislation, and another 12 are considering it. I’m honored to carry this bill on behalf of Everett and his family, and I thank my fellow members for their support.”
The bill states that a health care provider or entity responsible for matching anatomical gift donors and recipients cannot do the following solely based on a qualified individual’s mental or physical disability:
- Deem the person ineligible to receive an anatomical gift or organ transplant;
- Deny medical or related organ transplantation services;
- Refuse to refer the person to a transplant center or other related specialist for evaluation or organ transplantation;
- Refuse to place a person on an organ transplant waiting list;
- Place a person at a lower position on an organ transplant waiting list;
- Decline to accept insurance coverage for any procedure associated with the receipt of the anatomical gift.
The bill also prohibits health carriers from doing the following:
- Denying coverage solely on the basis of the disability;
- Denying a patient eligibility or continued eligibility for a health benefit plan to circumvent the requirements of the section;
- Reducing provider reimbursement or providing incentives to induce the provider to provide care in a manner inconsistent with the section;
- Limiting coverage benefits to a patient for services related to organ transplantation.
Everett and his parents watched from the Senate Gallery as SB 378 was approved.
“Everett is healthy now, but we don’t know what the future may bring. Our goal with this legislation is to make sure Oklahomans with disabilities, like our son, have a fair chance,” said Everett’s father, Rhys. “We’re grateful to Senator Rosino for championing this legislation and to the Senate for moving this bill forward.”
The measure heads to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for further consideration. Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, is the bill’s House author.